Marcel Broodthaers began his creative life as a poet not as a conceptual artist. Minuit is one of his earliest creative endeavors, and it is a volume of poetry that displays many of the hallmarks of his later work. Its cinematic and dream-like poems act as a stage set or tableau indirectly hinting at a dark fairytale. As a poet and visual artist, Broodthaers was deeply influenced by Stéphane Mallarmé’s explorations of language and symbols and in Minuit he responds to the Poesies of Mallarmé as well as Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. The poems here share the imagery of these earlier works, such as the themes of the window and the sky from Poesies and the motif of time from Les Fleurs du Mal.
Apart from the influence of these revered famous French poets, Minuit also displays Broodthaers’ own language and imagery, much of which he continued to rework into new forms throughout his brief career. The clock, the sea, the eagle, alphabets, and other images, which populate these painterly poems, are characteristic of much of his later work.
Copies of Minuit, published as a small sewn softcover letterpress book in a limited edition of 225 copies with an illustration by Serge Vandercam, are exceedingly scarce in North America. The version here is an unnumbered copy without the Vandercam illustration. It is in very good condition overall.
Jean Dubuffet created this scroll-format book inspired by a Joan Miró scroll. Nearly twenty feet in length, Dubuffet’s monumental work features a collage-like sprawl of imagery in the artist’s signature style. He chose twelve black-and-white drawings as the basis for the scroll and with them created a lively procession of figures and patterns. The drawings used for this piece were originally created for his Mémoration and Annale series (1978-79). From left to right, the drawings used are Mémoration VIII, Annale XIX, Mémoration XIX, Annale XI, Annale XVIII, Mémoration XVI, Annale XXIII, Mémoration XXI, Annale VI, Mémoration XV, Annale XVII, and Annale XIV.
To execute the printing of this piece, Dubuffet worked with Pace Editions in New York which published many of the artist’s prints and multiples during the 1970s and 1980s. This scroll is silkscreen-printed onto silk with a paper lining. Two wooden dowels are attached to the ends of the scroll, and the entire piece is housed in a hinged wooden box. The lid of the box is silkscreened with a black-and-white illustration of seven figures by Dubuffet.
A metal plaque inside the lid of the box reproduces the artist’s signature and is etched with the edition number. The total edition for this work is 90 copies, with 10 copies hors commerce numbered I to X. This scroll is initialed, dated, and numbered 22/80 by the artist.
This book features a single poem by William Carlos Williams and seven color intaglio prints by paiinter Helen Frankenthaler. Like many of Frankenthaler’s graphic works, this portfolio was printed by Tyler Graphics. Her lyrical compositions, filled with her signature soft washes of color, complement the porm with images on the theme of love.
Williams’ short poem is printed through lithography on a folio of white handmade paper. The folio encloses Frankenthaler’s loose prints and features an additional intaglio print by the artist on its cover.
This copy is numbered 25 out of an edition of 35 with an additional 19 copies for proofs and the printer’s archives. It is signed and dated by Frankenthaler on the folio.
In 1981, Gilbert & George created a feature-length film, The World of Gilbert & George. Both humorous and moving, this film presents the artists’ thoughts and beliefs through views of their life and the urban environment in which they live. This artist’s book features the storyboard drawings that Gilbert and George made as they envisioned the scenes of the film. These loose, expressionistic drawings are reproduced by offset lithography at actual size. The approximately 900 black-and-white drawings are accompanied by the full text of the film’s narration as well as directions and descriptions related to the film. A preface by the artists describes the genesis of their film, and an essay on the artists’ work by art historian Marco Livingstone introduces the book.
This copy of the book includes an original ink wash drawing by the artists which is a portrait of George. It is signed “Gilbert + George” in red ink.
One of 150 deluxe copies, numbered 1 to 150. This copy is numbered 24/150 in black ink at the colophon and signed “lots of love from Gilbert + George” in red ink on the front flyleaf.
This enigmatic book has attracted much critical attention both for its aesthetic qualities and for its unique approach to collaboration. Johns insisted on working with a text from Beckett that he had not read, and he decided upon the images before he knew what text would be chosen. All of the motifs for the illustrations in the book are more or less taken from Johns’ 1972 Untitled, a four-panel oil, encaustic, and collage on canvas now at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, which was chosen by him on the basis of his a priori knowledge of Beckett. Some of the images are modified to reflect Beckett’s text and the smaller format of the book’s leaves but others are not. Beckett offered to translate eight “Fizzles,” or character pieces he had written between 1960 and 1972, and of these Johns chose five, apparently to fit with the number of images he had already selected. These appear in the edition in both their original French and in Beckett’s English translation. Beckett offered to translate eight “Fizzles,” or character pieces he had written between 1960 and 1972, and of these Johns chose five, apparently to fit with the number of images he had already selected. These appear in the edition in both their original French and in Beckett’s English translation.
This approach to collaboration, or independent non-collaboration, was not original with Johns. His friends John Cage and Merce Cunningham, composer and choreographer respectively, began working together in the early 1940s in New York and at Black Mountain College and by the mid 1940s their joint work had evolved into separate and independent work on single performances. Only the duration of the performance was agreed upon in advance. Cunningham's dancers would not know the music to which they were to dance until the night of the performance. When in the early 1950s artist Robert Rauschenberg began to design the stage sets, costumes, and lighting, he knew nothing about the music or choreography. The rationale for this approach was to have art mimic the ordinary experiences of everyday life which is filled with sounds, sights, and movements that constitute, at any given moment, uncoordinated and unrelated stimuli the only common element of which is that they exist in the same time and place. Johns and Rauschenberg lived together in New York from 1955 to 1961 so Johns would have been familiar with this approach.
After the book was released it became the subject of two museum exhibitions. First, at the Whitey Museum of American Art, entitled “Foirades / Fizzles,” which ran for two months in 1977, and ten years later at the Wright Art Gallery at UCLA, entitled “Foirades / Fizzles: Echo and Allusion in the Art of Jasper Johns,” which ran for two months in 1987. This copy of Foirades / Fizzles includes both exhibition catalogues and the eight page prospectus issued by the Petersburg Press in 1976 which is bound with a black cord and includes four full page illustrations. The book is printed on handmade wove Auvergne Richard de Bas paper which is watermarked with Beckett’s initials and Johns’ signature.
This copy is one of an edition of 250 copies plus fifty hors commerce. It is signed by Beckett and Johns.
Commentary on this work:
"This cerebral volume that provokes more questions than it answers is considered one of the greatest artists’ books of the twentieth century." Robert Flynn Johnson, Artists’ Books in the Modern Era 1870 – 2000
"Foirades / Fizzles must rank among the most beautiful illustrated books of the century, an ambiguous object that is both a dark meditation on death and alienation, and an impassive, measured exploration of the mechanics of the book format."
Joan Rothfuss, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
In this volume, Conceptual artist Sol LeWitt responds to a series of poems by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. First published in 1991, these poems are similar in shape to a square: they consist of twelve lines arranged into four three-line stanzas. The 48 poems are then divided into four sections with 12 poems each: “Lightenings,” “Settings,” “Crossings,” and “Squarings.” Helen Vendler, the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University, introduces the poems with an essay discussing Heaney’s work.
The mathematical and geometrical presentation of the poems is fittingly accompanied by forty-eight illustrations by LeWitt. Known for using self-imposed restrictions to create variations on geometric forms such as the cube, LeWitt here produces drawings developed from the form of a square. Each illustration is captioned with the constraints LeWitt used to create the drawings – for instance, “Scribbles and a square with not straight horizontal lines outside and not straight vertical lines inside.” LeWitt’s original drawings are presented as letterpress illustrations printed from photopolymer plates.
This book was published in a limited edition of 426 with 400 numbered copies and an additional 26 lettered copies for complimentary distribution. This copy is numbered 112 and is signed by the artist and the author. This copy is accompanied by a letterpress-printed prospectus.
Henry Moore’s shelter sketches are considered by many to be his finest achievement as a draughtsman. They were made in the tunnels of the London Underground where residents sought shelter from bombing raids during the Battle of Britain. They evince both the characteristic smooth contours of Moore’s sculptures and the humaneness he sought to achieve in all of his art. At this time Moore was an Official War Artist, a salaried position awarded to him at the urging of the art critic Kenneth Clark.
This portfolio, assembled in 1967 by Moore and the Marlborough art gallery, is based on the actual sketchbook made by Moore during the war. The cataloguing entry from the British Museum for the original reads as follows, and in a subtle way portrays the uncertainty of life and possessions during that traumatic time: “[A] sketchbook containing sixty-seven leaves, on acquisition disbound, in a brown paper cover on the verso of which is written: ‘If found please return to:’ followed by the artist’s name and address written in block capitals.”
The original sketchbook is pen & ink and graphite, with green, red, and blue wax crayon and watercolor. In 2011it was the subject of an exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace) in St Petersburg entitled “Blitz and Blockade: Henry Moore at the Hermitage.”
The portfolio offered here reproduces the original sketchbook with eighty color collotypes of Moore’s World War II drawings and one original color lithograph on hand made paper signed by Moore once in the stone (in reverse) and once in pencil on the print itself.
One of Yoko Ono’s most famous works of any medium, Grapefruit, is an influential example of conceptual art. Associating the work with freedom and independence, Ono self-published the first edition under the imprint Wunternaum Press on July 4, 1964. Like many of her artworks, this book is interactive in nature and contains a collection of text-based conceptual artworks, or instruction pieces.
Presented under the headings of Music, Painting, Event, Poetry, and Object, each page features a set of instructions proposing an artwork that readers imagine or realize themselves. “Cough Piece,” for example, instructs readers to “Keep coughing a year,” while “Tunafish Sandwich Piece” invites readers to “[i]magine one thousand suns in the sky at the same time. Let them shine for one hour. Then, let them gradually melt into the sky. Make one tunafish sandwich and eat.” Ono’s democratic conception of the book extended to its production and the first edition of this book was inexpensively printed in a small square format and perfect bound with cardstock covers. The first edition of this book, of which this copy is one, was limited to 500 copies. In the summer of 1964, during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Ono sold copies of it on the streets. An expanded version of the book was reprinted by Simon and Schuster in 1970 and several times thereafter. It has been translated into many different languages.
Due to its instructional nature, the book remained a factor in her work for several years. In 1966, she sailed from New York to London to participate in DIAS, a month-long event formally called the Destruction in Art Symposium, organized by London based artist Gustav Metzger. Her participation in this event included Cut Piece, where members of the audience cut away parts of her clothing. This created quite a buzz, and Ono was invited to show her work at an exhibition held at the Indica Gallery and Bookshop. It was at the preview for this show, held the night before the opening, that Ono met John Lennon.
The works in the Indica show drew heavily from the instructional “menus” found in Grapefruit. In the words of a recent MoMA exhibition catalogue: "A great many of the works in the exhibition were examples of her “instruction paintings” and demonstrated her notion of “brain painting.” The sources of many of them were the scores printed in the 1964 edition of her book Grapefruit." Biesenbach and Cherix, Yoko Ono: One Woman Show 1960-1971.
This copy of the scarce first edition features a handwritten inscription by the artist in English reading “To Francis, Yoko Ono London ‘66”, and thus ties it to her Cut Piece trip and her first meeting with Lennon. Like much of her work made during this period, Ono was preoccupied with war, and in the lower left of the same page the artist has by hand copied, as part on the inscription but written in Japanese with Kanji characters, a poignant haiku by Basho:
Ah! Summer grasses!
All that remains
Of the warriors’ dreams
In his brief career, artist Blinky Palermo created several portfolios and artist’s books and, published two years before his death, Miniaturen II was his final book. It features very small prints, as the title implies, which showcase his signature style of geometric abstraction on an intimate scale. This book follows other works, such as Fünf Miniaturen (1972), which also feature miniature prints.
The four foil embossed prints in this book – each no larger than 2 7/8’’ x ½’’ – are characteristically colorful. Each print involves two to four bright colors arranged in rectangular and irregular shapes and centered in a cream-colored sea of heavyweight, textured paper. Other than the title page and the justification, no text accompanies the prints.
Miniaturen II is bound with white cloth and white board covers. The title is printed on the front cover in black ink. The slim volume is protected by a clear plastic dust jacket and a white cardstock slipcase.
This is copy 31 out of an edition of 100 copies numbered with Arabic numerals and 10 copies numbered with Roman numerals. It is signed and numbered by the artist.
First published in 1923, the ambitious, experimental novel Cane by Jean Toomer is here presented with artwork by the celebrated sculptor Martin Puryear. The novel’s thematically-linked vignettes include passages of fiction, poetry, and drama, which together paint a complex portrait of African-American life at that time. Considered a masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance as well as an important work of Modernist literature, Cane first explores the rural folk culture of African-Americans living in Georgia, then the urban life of African-Americans in Washington D.C., and then returns to the South in its last section. This edition features an afterword by historian Leon F. Litwack discussing Jean Toomer’s life and the historical context in which the novel was written.
Like Toomer, Puryear was born in Washington, D.C. He first read Toomer’s novel as a teacher at Fisk University in Nashville in the 1970s,. Puryear chose to illustrate the edition here with seven large woodblock prints which serve as abstract portraits of the female characters in the book. In addition to these bold black-and-white prints, Puryear created three smaller prints to be tipped into the book to introduce each section of the novel. These prints are based on the geometric arcs which appeared in the first edition of Cane and which represent the novel’s circular structure.
This book was published in an edition of 400 numbered copies plus 26 lettered copies hors commerce. This copy is one of the 350 copies bound in linen and is signed and numbered 295 by the artist at the colophon.
One of the highly influential photographic books created by Ed Ruscha in the 1960s, Royal Road Test documents the wreckage of a typewriter thrown from a speeding car. The book is presented in the manner of a forensic investigation with numerous offset printed black and white photos and terse captions documenting the depicted aspect of the incident. The text details the date, time, place, weather, and speed of the test, and the photos show the Royal (Model “X”) Typewriter before and after the toss. The 1963 Buick Le Sabre used for the test is also shown.
This project was the result of a spontaneous action as Ruscha and his friends Mason Williams and Patrick Blackwell drove along a highway near Las Vegas. Ruscha is credited as the driver, Williams as the thrower, and Blackwell as the photographer. Preceding the documentation is a cryptic statement: “It was too directly bound to its own anguish to be anything other than a cry of negation; carrying within itself, the seeds of its own destruction.” This is a quotation taken from an Encyclopedia Britannica entry on the Dada movement, and it accentuates the dry humor of the piece.
A slim volume, this book is spiral bound with white-coated metal wire. On the cover, the title is printed using the Royal Typewriter logo. The first edition of this book was printed in 1000 copies, and after that three more editions were produced. This copy is from the first edition and is one of the few signed by the artist on the title page. A distributor’s sticker is on the verso of last page.
Named after the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Zayin is an artist book featuring 13 poems by Dutch poet Wilfried Adams accompanied by 13 screenprints by Belgian painter Luc Tuymans. An artist whose work is concerned with the mediation of images, Tuymans typically re-photographs his source material to degrade the image before making a painting. Like his paintings, the prints in this book are grainy and indistinct images of ordinary objects and places, such as lamps and corridors, executed in faded colors. Tuymans’ illustrations match the somber tone of Adams’ Dutch language poems, which include “December,” “ Jiddisch” (Yiddish), “Colchicum Autumnale” (Autumn Crocuses), “Appel” (Apple), and “Farao” (Pharaoh) among others.
Zayin is bound in tan-colored cloth with the title stamped in gold on the front cover. The artwork is printed on Hahnemühle 230gsm paper. This book was designed by Luc Tuymans with typography by Désiré Janssen, Ad Rem Typografie, Amsterdam. The screenprinting was accomplished by Roger Vandaele, Panter Pers, Antwerp, and the binding was created by Luc Jansen in Edegem, Belgium.
This book was published in an edition of 77 copies, with 70 copies numbered 1 to 70 plus 7 copies numbered I to VII for the collaborators. This copy is numbered 28 and is signed by the author and the artist at the colophon.